SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Some San Francisco bus drivers are saying the city isn’t doing enough to keep them and their passengers’ safe on overcrowded buses, as ridership is increasing.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said it’s monitoring the bus lines closely, but operators and riders told KPIX 5 that it’s still way too overcrowded.
In the heart of the Mission, one sector of San Francisco that’s been a hotspot of COVID-19 transmission, the buses are packed.
“It’s always crowded,” said one rider.
KPIX 5 boarded one of buses. From the front, to middle, and all the way to the back of the bus, it was impossible to find six-feet of space.
One SFMTA operator who didn’t want to show his face, fearing for his job, described what it’s like on his shift every day.
“We try to keep our distance as far as not having anybody near us, but for the rest of the people it’s not safe because they’re riding so close to each other,” the operator told KPIX 5.
At least 37 SFMTA operators have tested positive for COVID-19 so far.
SMFTA has implemented safety protocols like cleaning its buses at least once per shift, and limiting buses depending on size, to 20-to-30 riders.
“We are watching ridership more closely than ever, so that we can add service where it’s needed,” said SFMTA’s Tom Maguire.
But operators said the limiting of passengers is not working.
“A lot of passengers that will run to the bus. When they see the doors open, they will just get in,” said the unnamed SFMTA operator.
Maguire said, “As essential workers continue to need to get around, and businesses start to reopen we’re going to need to provide more capacity.”
“The passengers are pretty much saying I don’t care if it’s overcrowded, I’m still getting on the bus,” said Roger Mareco of the Transport Workers Union.
SFMTA allows drivers the option to bypass stops if there are too many people already onboard, and to drop-off passengers ahead of a crowded stop. But the union representing bus operators believes the city isn’t doing its job well.
“Maybe a C minus or D plus, because there’s more that can be done and more that should be done,” said Marenco.
The union is asking for more frequent bus service on overcrowded lines including several of the main lines that serve the Mission District.
It also wants SFMTA to expedite the start of surface light rail service to ease some of the congested bus lines.